Ranking all the new head coaches in the FBS
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Ranking all the new head coaches in the FBS

At least the new head coaches in college football will have somewhat of a normal season. There were spring games, meetings, practices, and the all-important schedule in place. The pandemic made 2020 chaotic in many ways and created such a difficult situation for new coaches to implement their game-plan and identity on their programs.

Not that it is ever easy for new coaches to do any of that. We have 17 new head coaches heading into the 2021 season with some at some very high-profile places. Not all jobs are equal and not all the coaching hires are looked upon with the same excitement. Some of the hires seem to be great opportunities, while others were met with head-scratching.

So let's rank the hiring of the new head coaches in 2021.

1 of 17

#1 - Gus Malzahn, UCF

Gus Malzahn, UCF
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Malzahn is an outstanding hire for UCF. The Knights have been a weigh station of sorts for rising coaches who want to take the next step to a power conference. Malzahn has already reached those heights with Auburn, where he won a national championship and has gone toe-to-toe with Nick Saban and Alabama. UCF has already built up a nice brand, has resources and Malzahn can enhance that if he can mine the state for talent and continue to be a force in the AAC. The question may be how long can they keep him around.

2 of 17

#2 - Josh Heupel, Tennessee

Josh Heupel, Tennessee
Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It is a new day in Tennessee with new AD Danny White and head coach Josh Heupel. Vols fans hope the offense will be much more powerful under Heupel, like the one he left at UCF. What makes Vols' fans a bit skeptical is that they've watched these rising names come to Knoxville and fail to get the program over the hump. They've also watched another former UCF coach (Scott Frost) struggle to get another 1990s power program off the ground (Nebraska). The SEC is always tough, but a challenge that Heupel hopes to rise to.

3 of 17

#3 - Andy Avalos, Boise State

Andy Avalos, Boise State
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Avalos was a star linebacker at Boise State in the early 2000s so he understands what this program has been built into and what got them there. He has never been a head coach before but as a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Boise State and Oregon, he has improved both defenses and developed some great linebackers. Boise State tends to nail their hires and I believe they have done so once again. 

4 of 17

#4 - Bryan Harsin, Auburn

Bryan Harsin, Auburn
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Harsin went 69-19 over seven seasons at Boise State and now heads across the country to take over an Auburn program that has a lot of pressure surrounding it. Ex-Boise coaches have been successful in their next stops so there is a lot of hope that Harsin can build back a program that can (and must) take on Alabama and get back into the national championship chase. He is a quarterback guru so the hope for Tiger fans is that he can work his magic on Bo Nix next season.

5 of 17

#5 - Steve Sarkisian, Texas

Steve Sarkisian, Texas
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Sarkisian has landed another opportunity at a big job as he heads up a Longhorns' program that is yearning to get back to the national elite. He had average success at Washington and he was fired at USC for showing up to events intoxicated, so there will be a lot of eyes on how he handles a high-profile job like Texas. He has been able to work with and develop quarterbacks and coaching alongside Nick Saban for the last two years taught him a lot. This may be the most intriguing, yet scrutinized hire of the offseason. 

6 of 17

#6 - Bret Bielema, Illinois

Bret Bielema, Illinois
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Bielema has been successful in the Big Ten before, so he has a leg up on the ins and outs of the league. Illinois isn't Wisconsin however (nor is it Arkansas, the school he left Wisconsin for), but it has always felt like a sleeping giant. The Illini are a bit of a project but Lovie Smith didn't leave the cupboard bare. Bielema has always been able to coach defense and will attempt to strengthen up that side of the ball as the foundation.

7 of 17

#7 - Lance Leipold, Kansas

Lance Leipold, Kansas
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It hurt Kansas to have to replace their coach in March and not during the normal coaching carousel of November, December, or January, but they did an admirable job. Leipold took Buffalo to three straight bowl games and won himself two MAC Coach of the Year awards. He also went 109-6 over eight years with Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, winning six national championships. Leipold has paid his dues and has won, but will begin the arduous task of building the Kansas program into respectability. With a six-year deal, he should be afforded the time to do so.

8 of 17

#8 - Charles Huff, Marshall

Charles Huff, Marshall
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Expect Marshall to run the football. Huff has been a running backs coach at a variety of places (most recently Alabama) and has coached some great talent. He coached Saquan Barkley, Miles Sanders, and Najee Harris and played at powerhouse Hampton in the early 2000s. Huff is the son of a principal and worked on his grandfather's farm as a kid. He'll be a no-nonsense head coach who will demand toughness. Marshall has been to a bowl game in seven of the last eight years so this isn't a total rebuild. 

9 of 17

#9 - Blake Anderson, Utah State

Blake Anderson, Utah State
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Anderson is moving on up the coaching ranks. He had a nice seven-year run at Arkansas State, where he went 51-37 and won three regular-season Sun Belt championships. Last year was a disaster for Utah State, as they won just one game and were blown out in five losses. Anderson may be most known for the time when his Red Wolves played at Georgia after his wife, Wendy, passed away from breast cancer, and Georgia's students and fans honored her by wearing pink shirts and held signs with supportive messages.

10 of 17

#10 - Butch Jones, Arkansas State

Butch Jones, Arkansas State
C.B. Schmelter / The Jackson Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Butch Jones had a lot of success at Central Michigan and Cincinnati but fell flat on his face at Tennessee. Is Arkansas State just the kind of sweet spot for Jones? Arkansas State has been a successful program in the Sun Belt (their last three coaches are also on this list) and Jones seems to thrive in this setting. And as disappointing as his time in Tennessee was, he did win all three bowl games he got the Vols to. 

11 of 17

#11 - Clark Lea, Vanderbilt

Clark Lea, Vanderbilt
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Lea was a linebacker/fullback at Vanderbilt, so he's fully aware of the challenges that the program faces in the SEC. Working at Notre Dame and Wake Forest has also prepared him for life at a school where academic standards are tough. He built top defenses at Notre Dame over the last three years so he knows how to coach that side of the ball. What he's yet to prove is that he can be a head coach, which could lead to a large learning curve in Nashville. He certainly deserves the opportunity, but the Commodores are a tough gig.

12 of 17

#12 - Kane Wommack, South Alabama

Kane Wommack, South Alabama
Jody Link/Pensacola News Journal

Wommack may have the biggest floor-to-ceiling range of anyone on this list. He is just 33 years old, making him the youngest head coach in the FBS, but he's made his mark already in his young career. Last year, his Indiana defense helped the Hoosiers breakthrough with one of their finest seasons in decades. Before that, he improved South Alabama's defense into a nationally ranked unit. Look for that to be his calling card as he comes back to South Alabama. He could be the next young star in the coaching ranks or prove to not be ready for the job yet. 

13 of 17

#13 - Shane Beamer, South Carolina

Shane Beamer, South Carolina
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire

I just find it tough to give an SEC job to a first-time head coach, but that's what South Carolina did with Shane Beamer. And it isn't just any SEC job ... but the one in the state that Clemson dominates. Beamer has been around the block with some great mentors. He's worked for Phillip Fulmer, Steve Spurrier, Kirby Smart, Lincoln Riley, and his own father, Frank, at Virginia Tech. He's also known in coaching circles for his recruiting prowess. Can the Gamecocks faithful be patient? If he does well, we could see his dad's school come calling in a few months.

14 of 17

#14 - Will Hall, Southern Miss

Will Hall, Southern Miss
Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

Hall has been a successful head coach at the Division II level and has run high octane offenses in his four years as an FBS assistant. That should go over well for a Southern Miss program that would love to relive the offensive success of the Larry Fedora era a decade ago. Hall knows the area, previously as the head coach at West Alabama and West Georgia and as an assistant at Louisiana, Memphis, and Tulane.

15 of 17

#15 - Jedd Fisch, Arizona

Jedd Fisch, Arizona
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Fisch has been around the block. He's coached in the Arena Football League, college (Florida, Minnesota, Miami, Michigan, UCLA), and the NFL (Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks, Jaguars, Rams, Patriots) so he has seen a thing or two. Oh, and he's just 44 years old! This is his first head coaching job but he's learned at the feet of a lot of different men (Bill Belichick, Steve Spurrier, Sean McVeigh, Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, Brian Billick) where he's acquired a lot of diverse philosophies. He's also developed a reputation of a vagabond of sorts (he's only stayed in one place longer than two seasons once) and as a coach who isn't afraid to carve his own path. Arizona has been mired in a funk over the last few seasons and Fisch's hiring is a bit unorthodox. This could break either way.

16 of 17

#16 - Maurice Linguist, Buffalo

Maurice Linguist, Buffalo
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

At just 37 years old, Linguist has made the rounds. A former defensive back at Baylor, he has coached at James Madison, Iowa State, Mississippi State, Minnesota and Texas A&M. He also spent two seasons as the defensive backs coach at Buffalo in 2012-2013 and knows the program. Linguist spent last season as a secondary coach for the Dallas Cowboys, giving him some NFL experience. Still, he hasn't stayed anywhere for very long (his three years at James Madison was his longest stint) and this was a late-in-the-game hire.

17 of 17

#17 - Terry Bowden, Louisiana-Monroe

Terry Bowden, Louisiana-Monroe
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

Why? Terry Bowden is certainly a name (Auburn, Bobby's son) but what has he done lately? He coached at Akron from 2012 to 2018 and reached just two bowl games and had one winning season. He takes over at Louisiana-Monroe ... a program that never had a lead all of the 2020 season ... to inject, um, new blood? The fact that he hired Rich Rodriguez as his offensive coordinator will at least make the Warhawks interesting to follow. 

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